Sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin
Title: Regional project, support to the Central African Forest Commission (SP-COMIFAC)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Príncipe
Lead executing agency: Commission of Central African Forests (COMIFAC)
Overall term: 2005 to 2018
The forests of the Congo Basin cover more than 180 million hectares, about five times the total sur-face area of Germany, comprising the world’s second largest continuous tropical rainforest after the Amazon. The forests directly support the natural livelihoods of over 65 million people, and they pro-vide the habitat for more than 400 mammal species, upward of 1,000 kinds of bird and over 20,000 species of plant. Some 10,000 of these plants are endemic to the Congo Basin, and many of the animal species are also found only here, including mountain gorillas, bonobos and okapis. The trop-ical exotic hardwoods of the Congo Basin are among its most significant exports, while oils, fruit and game contribute to the diets of the local people. It is only with cross-border political cooperation that continuous protected areas can be established and uncontrolled exploitation reduced. Building on the Yaoundé Declaration (1999), at a summit of the heads of state in 2005 the countries of the re-gion confirmed their commitment to the preservation of forests and biodiversity in the Congo Basin, and to the transnational Convergence Plan.
The Commission of Central African Forests (COMIFAC) is able to fulfil its strategic and operational tasks effectively.
COMIFAC and its executive secretariat are mandated to establish the conditions for the implemen-tation of the Convergence Plan. GIZ has been supporting COMIFAC in this since 2002. The current project cooperates closely with the COMIFAC executive secretariat, and focuses on five key areas of activity:
- Organisational development of COMIFAC
- Valorisation of the experiences acquired by the Commission
- Support for a policy dialogue and harmonisation of forest and environmental policies
- Capacity building to reinforce multi-stakeholder processes
- Modernisation of training provided in the forestry and environment sectors
In particular, the project contributes to the participatory processes underpinning the revision of the COMIFAC Convergence Plan. It assists the members of the relevant working groups to develop common positions for use in international negotiations, and supports the creation of new trans-boundary protected areas.
The project’s capacity development measures aim to improve the technical and organisational ca-pacities of a number of bodies. These include the national coordination committee of the COMIFAC executive secretariat, the Conference on the Dense and humid Forest Ecosystems of Central Afri-can Ecosystems, and various relevant networks. Activities with the COMIFAC national coordinators are also intended to raise their visibility.
The project has contributed much to COMIFAC’s positioning as a regional authority on forest policy and sustainable forestry, which is now recognised by the Member States as well as international partners. All the relevant groups of actors now concur that the COMIFAC executive secretariat has the mandate to coordinate, implement, monitor and evaluate the regional forest programme.
Thanks to the growing acceptance of COMIFAC as a partner in the forest policy dialogue, it is bet-ter placed to raise its concerns and promote its agenda. As a result, significant progress is being made in the region with respect to sustainable forest policies. For instance, awareness has in-creased regarding the issues of forest certification and the need for qualified forest management experts. At the same time, the management of protected areas has improved and civil society in-volvement has increased, and approaches have been developed to improve the use of resources and achieve poverty reduction. New national parks have been created and the area of productive, certified forest under sustainable management has risen to 12.5 per cent since 2005.